Cover Image: Notes from a Sickbed

Notes from a Sickbed

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Member Reviews

Tessa Bruntom creates a visual story with depth and detail, bringing to mind the work of legend Howard Cruse. A graphic novel journey that is worth the visit.

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Notes From A Sickbed, written and illustrated by Tessa Brunton, takes us deeply into her inner world since 2009 when a life-altering, overwhelming illness flattened her health and erected new and brittle limitations and boundaries – that of her body and sickbed. Through her richly creative cartoon vignettes, we experience her thoughts and daily mostly housebound life. Her marvelous cartoon panels reveal the need to "let it rip" what she’s feeling, including haunting the non-sick (splendid), navigating the medical resources (endless and useless loops), outfitting the room with coping whatnot to survive (including gadgets, kitty mugs, books - “Buck Up Or Else”, nostalgic memorabilia, and other dust collecting possessions). The reader is offered glimpses of artistic nuggets of wonder – torn off sticky tape strips with marching oddball creatures - sometimes chirping gems of delight like a Greek chorus; a calm cat napping; witty Neighbor News (a must read); and those floating haunters or examples of living in a snail’s shell. Time and again, she calculates possible exertions and negotiates with “post-exertional malaise” to squeeze out some normal life moments, mostly resulting in disheartening reaffirmation that “activity no matter how small causes symptoms.” At times cartoon panels painfully convey more than is stated - the sickbed and its resident frozen in place while the non-sick’s world marches on out the window. This is not an exploration of everything about the illness known as ME/CFS - also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, often misunderstood, ignored, cavalierly dismissed, devastating, disabling, and incurable. It is not meant to be. Nor is it a book of hopelessness.

Susan Sontag’s lines that “Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick.” What this memorable book effectively and bravely puts forth is how to find ways to live with this illness, how to dampen even slightly the symptoms, how to hold onto that passport to the kingdom of the well – even from a sickbed. How to thrive. Tessa Brunton’s mind is plum full of fascinating adventures through her artwork, and this is her passport to the other world.

This book has been starred in the book world. It deserves it. For those who don’t know or understand ME/CFS, it offers a view that may alter perceptions. For those who must live with this illness, it nails it and that is a godsend. The blend of the graphic format with the serious nature of this illness into a unique memoir succeeds at every level. It was difficult for me to review this book. I have held these dual passports for decades due to this same illness. Although I haven’t yet daydreamed about haunting the non-sick – there’s still time. This is a wondrous book. I’ve ordered it from my favorite indie bookstore so that I may put it by my bed and smile when I need to go a-haunting. I am also recommending it our public library. If they don’t order it, I will buy it and ask that it be added to the library’s collection.

This opinion is all my own. I am grateful to NetGalley, Graphic Universe, and especially Tessa Brunton for allowing me early access to read this exceptional book. To Tessa Brunton – I hope you will keep writing and drawing as you can, no deadlines and no commitments. Just hopes. I want to read every one of those “possibilities” at the end. To dwell in possibility. Thank you.

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Nice artwork, detailing the author’s struggle with chronic debilitating illness. I was only puzzled by what seemed to me like an abrupt ending…that wasn’t an ending. Maybe I missed something…

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This graphic novel features a series of vignettes/graphic essays (are graphic essays a thing?) on living with ME and the ways her brain sought escape. From becoming a poltergeist to haunt noisy neighbors, to escaping reality through comic creation, Tessa Brunton lets us peek inside the imagination of an |escape| artist.

I enjoyed seeing the illustrated representation of how it feels to live with a chronic illness, the frustration, the bartering for time, for wellness, the strain on relationships, and feelings of being left behind. In the way the narrator balances herself by resting, waiting for a period of good health and then a grand exertion, I felt the book balances itself by showing us the frustrations of living with ME and then the grand explosion of imagination and creativity for escape. Noisy neighbors? Not if I was a ghost. Bed-bound? Not so 'bound' if my bed could move... I enjoyed these lovely bits of fun and humor and hope in the midst of rough times.

The book as a whole, however, was very confusing. At times we would follow a narrative, with plot shifts and progression and then be launched back into an imagination sidebar. Other times it seemed like we were going to see the character make progress on the mysteries of her illness, only to jump to a different time period and different coping mechanism. It wasn't "bad" necessarily, but it was disjointed, and it made the ending feel veryyy sudden and jarring.

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Here I am, in the middle of a big fibro flare, and I stumble across this! I haven't read any graphic books so I wasn't sure if it would be my thing but I knew this was a great place to start because I can relate. I'm always looking for new things to get into since I am also stuck with myself for entertainment.

This was really interesting and imaginative and it was kind of relaxing to me since I already didn't feel good so it was meaningful content. My heart goes out to the author who has it even harder. I was interested in the journey and where their mind wandered to.

It's funny and random and I have to say that we are all grateful for the pets by our side through this! I was reminded of that. Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the chance to review.

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